Catching My Eye: Ellis Park June 15-19
Friday June 16: Ian Wilkes Daily Double ($58.26-1)
Ian Wilkes is a conditioner who has strong success bringing his horses along race-by-race, so when you see him send out a first-time starter to the winner’s circle, you know that’s a horse to keep your eyes on.
Two-year-old filly Into Champagne did everything right in her 5 1/2 furlong debut in Race 8 on Friday. Drawn in post 10 with Leparoux up, she broke with alacrity, wanting to contend for the lead from the get-go, but her rider held her back with all his might and she didn't grow rank. Loaded halfway through the turn, Leparoux let her fire and she made a three-wide move to take down two foes before she popped away as soon as her rider shook the reins. Nothing wrong with a seven-length victory.
By Into Mischief and out of the Speightstown mare Bedford Land, she has two half-siblings who have raced, most interestingly Moonlander. The Malibu Moon colt debuted running third in a sprint and earning a 91 Brisnet Speed fire but never raced again. Fordland ran four races on turf, winning one going long. It seems there are options for where we find her next.
Speaking of Wilkes's ability to bring them along race by race, Souper Munnings had not won since being transferred to Wilkes’ barn at the beginning of 2023. With a potential trip excuse in her last, the five-year-old notched her fourth win in impressive fashion while surprising bettors at nearly 20-1 and punctuating the Ian Wilkes Daily Double.
We don’t see as many n4x allowance races written as we used to, and as expected, this turf sprint had a stout field. Declan Cannon gave a brilliant ride aboard the winner. After settling Souper Munnings to the back and saving ground on the rail, he worked her into a rhythm that proved to be the half-length difference. Not picking up his hands until halfway through the turn, Cannon began to work his magic on the reins. Gently at first but as they began to straighten into the homestretch, his hands grew lively, building to a couple of left-handers and then setting her down into a drive-by scrubbing her with authority. Souper Munnings responded well to every move her pilot made and gamely split horses to outfinish the quality Calhoun filly New Boss.
Saturday, June 17: Potential Key Race Alert:
In his first stakes try, Vivar won the $175,000 Chorleywood Overnight Stakes over several graded stakes-level foes. In the evenly matched field of eight, six of the older turf horses ran strong races, as the top four all earned 89 Brisnet Speed figures. One length separated the top five with Therapist finishing a head-shy of Vivar but a neck ahead of front runner Hidden Stash. Tiz the Bomb and Media Blitz were able to get the best of the even-money favorite Foreign Relations who ran in sixth throughout after winning the Grade 3 Louisville last out. The top four all ran 89 Brisnet Speed figures and the next two ran 88s.
Some key races signal us who will next out and some signal who to fade. I’ve got these runners circled and will be interested to see where we find them next -- at the same 1 1/4 miles distance? stepping back up to graded stakes company? -- and whether or not this was a major effort or a minor key.
Sunday, June 18
Third time was the charm for the four-year-old colt Top Secret. Making his second start for trainer Steve Asmussen, the Uncle Mo colt got his first shot at wiring a field and made the most of it to earn an 88 Brisnet Speed figure going six furlongs against a mix of three and four-year-old fellas.
Asmussen now has seven wins since the meet moved over to Ellis Park. His win rate is 28%, and of his 25 starters, 17 have finished in the money.
Thursday, June 15
Rhyme Schemes, the second-time starter trained by Norm Casse ran a 93 Brisnet Speed figure breaking his maiden in Race 2 on Thursday. Going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track, the two-year-old wired the field of ten mostly first-time starters at odds of 8-1. The Ghostzapper colt exited what appears to be a key race. Now the second winner from the May 18 maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, Rhyme Schemes joins Gold Sweep who won the Tremont on June 11 at Belmont.
Though just one win to his resume and entered in for a tag for the first time, there were high hopes for Good Heart signaled by being entered in the 2022 Breeders’ Futurity and the 2023 Battaglia Memorial. Brendan Walsh moved the 3-year-old colt back to dirt and added the blinkers for his first attempt at a sprint distance, and he popped nicely winning Race 3 by four lengths. His lone score coming over the turf at Kentucky Downs, the Good Samaritan colt stepped forward for an 89 Brisnet Speed figure, his best in six starts.
Ignored at the claim box, it will be interesting to see what Walsh decides to do with Good Heart next. Which change was the key to this effort? That uncertainty could create some value at the windows.